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Karnataka HC to resume Hijab hearing on Wednesday

Students in Hijab

The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday heard four petitions against action of educational institutions stopping female Muslim students from attending classes on the ground that they wear a hijab (headscarf).

The news: The plea was heard by Justice Krishna S Dixit who said, “Keep all emotions aside. We will go by what constitution says. Constitution is above Bhagwad Geeta for me. I will go by the oath I have taken to the Constitution.”

  • The petitions argue that the institutions are discriminating against the petitioners and other female Muslim students by denying them entry on the sole ground of them wearing a hijab.
  • Recently, the Kerala government has issued an order clarifying that hijab or anything which highlights religious symbols cannot be allowed as part of the uniform of Student Police Cadet (SPC) project.
  • The State said that they have not intervened in the matter. “We have given autonomy to the College Development Committees to decide the uniform and the students will abide by it,” said Advocate General, Prabhuling Navadgi.
  • Navadgi said if students want relaxation, they should approach the College Development Committee for the same.
  • Senior Advocate Devadatt Kamat appearing on behalf of the petitioners asserted that the State’s stand is not that innocuous. That is why they are opposing the petition.
  • Wearing of head scarf (not burqa or veil) is an essential part of Islamic religion, said Kamat. It is an essential religious practice as prescribed by holy Quran. All the decisions cited by them – Madras, Bombay and Kerala – don’t deal with this issue at all, he added.
  • Kamat argued, “Wearing of hijab is protected by right to expression under Article 19(1)(a) and can be restricted only on grounds under Article 19(6).”
  • “My third argument is wearing hijab is a facet of right to privacy recognised as part of Article 21 by Puttaswamy judgment of Supreme Court,” Kamat added.
  • “My fourth argument is the government order is outside the scope of Karnataka Education Rules and State has no jurisdiction to issue the same. No religion can hold State to ransom,” Kamat added.
  • The Court said that according to the Upanishads, knowledge should be accepted from everywhere.
  • Kamat read Kerala High Court judgment on the hijab ban in a Christian institution. “That was a different case since minority right to establish and administer educational institutions under Article 30 was given primacy.”
  • State cannot curtail fundamental rights of citizens on the facile ground of public order, Kamat said citing Supreme Court judgment.
  • “We will go by reason, by law, not by passion or emotions. We will go by what Constitution says. Constitution is greater than the Bhagavad Gita for me,” Justice Dixit stated.

To sum up my submissions:

1. Wearing hijab is essential practice of Islam;

2. Ground of public order will not pass constitutional muster;

3. There is positive duty on State to maintain public order; it failed and then it cannot tell citizens don’t exercise Article 25 rights.

  • Kamat said considering that exams are approaching, and in view of the fact that petitioners have been exercising their rights since last 2 years, they be granted interim relief by allowing them to attend classes for now.
  • “I believe all people are good people except few… I request all people….” said Justice Dixit.
  • Court dictating order: Having heard counsel for the parties and pending further hearing of matter, this court requests the student community and the public at large to maintain peace and tranquillity.
  • The court has full faith in the wisdom and virtue of public at large and hope the same would be put to practice.
  • Justice Dixit appealed to the protesting students, “Do not disturb the Court. You should leave the judges to peace. Suppose if I see fire and blood on TV, judges will be disturbed. If the mind is disturbed, intellect will not work. I appeal to all people, I believe all people are good people, except a few…I will make a written order.”
  • The court will resume the hearing at 2.30 PM on Wednesday.

Karnataka High Court, Hijab Row, wear hijab to class issue, Udupi Muslim girls

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